Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Building Boom on South Campus

Geoff:  Michigan is poised to embark on the biggest building expansion of the athletic campus since the days of Fielding Yost. The new academic center is done, the baseball stadium is in progress, and $300 million in other construction is on the horizon.

Craig:  And no new parking!

Geoff:  Seriously.

Geoff:  There's no question that a lot of it is overdue (the softball field is not commensurate with the team that plays there), but it's a huge financial undertaking.

Craig:  Yes, and sadly, being Michigan, we seem to be following that old adage about making no small plans

Geoff:  Let's start with the projects that have already been approved/built.

Geoff:  The academic center cost $12M, entirely private money.

Craig:  I always approved of this highly; I think it shows Michigan's commitment to academics with athletics. I remember packs of varsity athletes wandering around the school of ed back in my day looking for their study tables, and it was just confusing, so for them to have one place, right there on the athletic campus, that's a good call

Geoff:  I like seeing that we're paying more than lip service to the idea that the athletes are also students.

Geoff:  My mom always gets mad that regular students don't get any facility like that

Craig:  And I would agree with that, except that regular students do not have to do their mandatory two hours of study table a night at a specific time and place

Craig:  At least, as I understand

Geoff:  Exactly

Geoff:  I wasn't holding down a more-than-fulltime job for the entire year.

Craig:  So yeah, it's nice, and it does fit in nicely right there by Yost, as does the new front of Yost

Geoff:  They did a nice job of blending it in.

Geoff:  So the next project we're getting into is the baseball stadium renovation.

Geoff:  We got the lights put in last year, and now they've moved on to reconstructing the stands.

Geoff:  The price tag, when it's all done, will be a relatively modest $9M

Craig:  Though I love baseball, I had never been to a Michigan baseball game until last year, but I enjoyed it a great deal (especially for just three dollars, but we'll get to that later.)

Craig:  I think a better Fisher Stadium is in order and I hope it will help Michigan, though I suspect that only thing that will truly help Northern baseball teams is global warming

Geoff:  True enough

Craig:  That said, you don't need a killer app for college baseball.

Geoff:  Nine million isn't chicken feed, but if this renovation lasts as long as the last one did, it's money well spent.

Craig:  Agreed

Geoff:  The one I'm more excited about, actually, is the Alumni Field improvements for the softball team.

Geoff:  The spring before last, I went to the Big Ten tournament we were hosting

Geoff:  They had temporary bleachers set up throughout the outfield, and this should cut down on the need for those.

Craig:  Agreed, the softball team has earned it, although I must ask, does Title IX necessitate this for balance to the Fisher improvements?

Craig:  Not that I mind, I am just wondering if it's required in the timing

Geoff:  I don't think so. There's a debate over the exact application of Title IX, but the current thinking is mostly that the number of teams should be equal.

Geoff:  Football blows up any sort of monetary comparison, for one thing.

Craig:  This is true

Craig:  Anyway, the softball team needs a better field and I am happy to see them getting it

Geoff:  Absolutely. I had a lot of fun at that tournament. I sat in with the alumni band, and it was just a great atmosphere all around.

Geoff:  Their run to the NCAA title was great to follow on ESPN.

Craig:  Even last year was great, until Barry Bonds and ESPN conspired to ruin the SuperRegional, the dastards

Craig:  I know we should be over it, but I am still peeved

Geoff:  Oh, I'd almost put that out of my mind.

Craig:  That was the bottom of the seventh after all

Geoff:  But, yeah. Peeved.

Craig:  But we digress

Geoff:  Indeed. But as long as we're in this rhetorical cul-de-sac, I'll point out that Jennie Ritter is an IOE.

Geoff:  OK. On to the behemoth: Michigan Stadium.

Craig:  The Big House

Geoff:  $226M

Craig:  I will admit, I have waffled on this more lately than a Southern quick service breakfast fan

Geoff:  It's an enormous investment. It could cripple the athletic department for years, it'll result in a big markup in ticket prices, and it could look like dogshit.

Craig:  And here's my question...is it really needed?

Geoff:  It depends on if we want to stay in the arms race.

Craig:  I mean, I understand the press box, I have the program cover from 1957 touting Michigan's new football media center, but the rest of it is just arms racing

Geoff:  It's not so much the facilities arms race to keep up with the Buckeyes, it's the revenue stream behind the luxury boxes.

Geoff:  You lock in your corporate crowd and your big donors there.

Craig:  And the saddest part is, honestly, I really love the egalitarian nature of Michigan Stadium

Geoff:  Me too.

Craig:  No ads, and if one person gets soaked, we all do

Craig:  Literally, not figuratively

Geoff:  If you've got the big bucks, you get press box 50. But you get the same 18" everyone else does.

Geoff:  The shelf life on that is limited, though. It's been a matter of "when" for the last 5 years, at least.

Craig:  I know. I think the rumored Kyle Field 115K expansion always made me think that this was on the horizon

Geoff:  Are there even 115K in College Station?

Geoff:  I mean, Ann Arbor isn't a megalopolis unto itself, but at least Detroit's metro area is within shouting distance of 5M.

Craig:  I honestly always felt that smelled of "Screw it, we do everything bigger in Texas." I mean, look at Royal Memorial's new Tyrannovision

Geoff:  Oh, yeah. Another thing I'm glad we haven't entirely caved to.

Craig:  Football stadium size is always argued that it's easy to get massive numbers in for seven Saturdays a year

Craig:  But that always makes me worry as to why we're doing it

Craig:  It's seven Saturdays a year

Geoff:  The thing you get with college football (since we don't have pro football in Detroit) is you go down to the game, you tailgate with the same people for years on end, and you get a sense of a shared endeavor that I've never felt with any other sport.

Craig:  Absolutely. I know that my love of football Saturdays has been greatly enhanced by adding that part of the experience to my quiver in the last couple of years

Geoff:  So. The design itself.

Geoff:  On the whole, I kind of like it.

Craig:  Agreed

Craig:  I like that it feels like Yost

Geoff:  The whole athletic campus is getting the same sort of brick theme with a bit of more modern glass, it seems.

Geoff:  It's the unity of design that Central Campus has never had.

Craig:  Yes, there is a, well, I want to call it 21st Century, but it's really the sleek veneer of the 1950s with the glass, but hey, it's Michigan. In our architectural tastes, that's progress.

Geoff:  I'm not entirely sold on the glassed-in stairwells, but the overall design is better than I'd hoped for. I'm still worried that it'll look like they built a couple of towers outside the stadium, but it shouldn't end up looking like a spaceship landed.

Craig:  It is not Soldier Field, but you're right, it does basically look, on some level, like we threw up a couple of dormers

Geoff:  One thing that we're probably going to lose is that wow effect of going through the tunnels for the first time and realizing just how massive the stadium really is.

Craig:  You're right, but I do think that the majesty will come through as you walk up

Geoff:  The annoying thing to me is that they aren't bothering to add too many rows at the top before planting the towers. If they want extra seating, it's going to have to come in the end zones.

Craig:  Yes, although I will say that the end zone seats provide a tremendous difference in the way you view the game if you're up high enough. But, yeah, your overall point remains

Geoff:  The best thing that should come about from the renovation will be the noise impact.

Craig:  I really hope that the proposed physics on that is correct, that it will make Michigan Stadium loud and raucous, because Michigan fans are passionate about the game and loud at the right times...I apologize Geoff, because I know you know have heard me rant on this, but it always bothers me that Michigan fans are seen as dispassionate because they are not loud, whereas I think it's focused intensity

Geoff:  There's a fair point to be made there. I know, from watching games with my dad, that he could drop dead of an aneurysm he's so intense, but he never makes a sound.

Geoff:  I think that if we reach a critical mass we can turn the Big House into a more exciting place to play.

Craig:  I also think that people have to believe that it will work

Geoff:  Right. When you're in Row 85, it's hard to believe your voice will really be heard.

Craig:  But if you hear a loud crowd, you get into it

Geoff:  I think this will help. Even at the Rose Bowl, with its one big press box to reflect noise, it felt like the Michigan fans that were there were almost as loud as the whole stadium back home.

Craig:  Heck, when we were at Indiana, where there may have only been 30K of us, I thought we were louder than the whole of the Big House

Geoff:  Right. A small, passionate group in a stadium with louder acoustics.

Craig:  Here's the thing

Craig:  I genuinely hope Bill Martin knows how important this idea is to Michigan fans

Craig:  Because we have Hill Auditorium, which we like to claim is the most acoustically perfect place on earth

Craig:  So if we can get that right, people can study this to figure it out, right?

Craig:  I mean, we can make stealth technology, we can make it go the other way

Craig:  Not on planes, that would be bad

Geoff:  Right. The acoustics aren't that hard to roughly figure, IIRC. You'll know if a place will be loud or dead. Maybe not how loud, but you'll have an idea.

Craig:  All right. I think I'm nervous about the plan, but I am somewhat relieved because this does not FEEL like Halo 2 in terms of the input level alone

Geoff:  It's going to happen in some form. The possible money to be made is just too huge.

Geoff:  OK. So we've burned through a cool $252.5M so far.

Craig:  Call Everett Dirksen

Geoff:  Whoa. An Everett Dirksen joke. You don't see those every day.

Geoff:  That'll get a Wikipedia link.

Craig:  Make sure you get the quote I'm going for here

Geoff:  What is it? "A billion here, a billion there. Pretty soon you're talking about some real money"?

Craig:  Yep

Craig:  That's it

Geoff:  Shot in the dark on that one.

Geoff:  Anyway.

Geoff:  The last stop is the least defined: Crisler.

Craig:  Ahh yes, delicious ambiguity as one of our illustrious alums once said

Geoff:  When it was first announced, there was a $15-$20 million price tag to rip out some seats, put in luxury boxes, and get wrestling and gymnastics their own gym to play in.

Craig:  Ok, so far, so good

Geoff:  Now the Detroit News is saying that the cost could balloon to $75 million.

Geoff:  That's a significant revision there, and you still don't get a new arena.

Craig:  And at that point, why not just start over?

Geoff:  Exactly.

Craig:  I'm sorry, but Crisler is a morgue

Craig:  I've said this for years

Craig:  And if Michigan is serious about being an all-sports power, they need a better arena

Geoff:  The Breslin Center cost $43M in 1986. USC's Galen Center was $143M. A new basketball arena will not come cheap.

Geoff:  The brand-new Galen Center, I should say.

Craig:  I'll throw another one at you

Craig:  $129.8 million for the John Paul Jones Arena at Virginia, and it took three years to build. That's a whole lotta love.

Geoff:  It took some serious privateering for that sort of loot.

Craig:  Comcast at Maryland was $125 million.

Geoff:  Value City was $116M.

Craig:  And that's dual purpose

Craig:  Which raises a specter I don't want to raise

Geoff:  Yeah. The one that's always lurking at the edge of the Crisler discussion.

Geoff:  Yost.

Craig:  I love Yost, mostly because of its flaws

Geoff:  I love the benches, I love the ceiling.

Craig:  THOUGH, if I may make a point, the Athletic Department needs to understand that $25 a seat for a regular season game is way too much

Craig:  I skipped a game this weekend when I was offered tickets because it just seemed wrong for Ferris

Geoff:  That number doesn't go down anytime...ever.

Craig:  Nothing against our Bulldog Friends

Geoff:  Of course.

Craig:  A college hockey game, at best, should top out at $15

Geoff:  Let's see what the Kohl Center is charging...

Craig:  By the way, the Kohl was built in 1998 for 76.4 mil, and it's a dual

Craig:  22 and 18 for this weekend at the Kohl for UAA

Geoff:  Yeah.

Craig:  North Dakota is $25

Geoff:  And noted fan of 1940's Germany [or at least their collectibles] Ralph Engelstad paid for that place.

Craig:  $27 for Minnesota

Craig:  OK, so it's not out of line

Craig:  It's just annoying

Geoff:  Yeah. It's just the way things go when you're a big school hockey team, I think, especially at a shiny new arena.

Geoff:  At Michigan, it's because there isn't a 12000-seat rink.

Craig:  I remember back in 1998, I thought student ticket prices were out of line compared to the rest of the CCHA, and the good people of the athletic department pointed out that they compare to MInnesota, Michigan State, and Wisconsin, not BGSU, Miami, and Northern

Geoff:  Wow. That $27 at Minny is for standing room. If you want a seat, it'll be $30.

Craig:  Wow, and Michigan State is $22

Craig:  OK, so it's not out of line, it’s just – to reiterate – really annoying

Geoff:  Yeah.

Geoff:  To steer this back to Crisler for a second: The basketball team needs better facilities. At the very least, a hardwood floor of their own that they don't have to share with wrestling, men's gymnastics, women's gymnastics, and the women's basketball team.

Craig:  Absolutely

Geoff:  If that costs us $20M, well that's the cost of doing business.

Geoff:  We're already losing recruits because of our inadequate facilities.

Geoff:  At some point, however, it's not worth it to give Crisler a facelift.

Craig:  There's no way to put lipstick on that pig

Craig:  But if you give the pig some lipo...

Geoff:  And I don't think that line is anywhere north of $30M.

Craig:  How much will it cost to light things a little better?

Geoff:  Fair enough question on that one.

Geoff:  I think we need to think of it in terms of the separate costs for each facility built. Wrestling and gymnastics need their own spaces.

Craig:  Though you can give one of the two Cliff Keen

Craig:  And let the other get the new place

Geoff:  Right.

Geoff:  I don't know how much meet space each one needs, though.

Craig:  Wrestling does not need much room, five mats and some locker room. Honestly, a good sized high school gym would do the trick

Geoff:  With that done, a new locker room and weight room would go a long way to upgrading what's already there.

Craig:  Agreed

Geoff:  It's a band-aid [on Crisler], but that $226M for Michigan Stadium is going to be a lot of debt hanging around.

Craig:  Honestly, you could take care of wrestling and volleyball for I think roughly $12.5 mill

Craig:  So I don't know

Geoff:  I think a Crisler replacement is going to happen, but it would be a lot to get it done within the next decade with the financial burden that football will hang on the athletic department.

Craig:  I think that's a major conclusion...with one major possibility: a huge gift

Geoff:  Yeah. Bill Martin is always listening to what a greenback has to say.

Craig:  If you look at a lot of the arenas that have been built lately, they have had seed money, like the JPJ and the Kohl

Geoff:  The Galen Center squeezed $50M+ out of its namesake.

Craig:  And I am wondering if Michigan basketball has an angel out there

Geoff:  Well, they'd better report any contact with him to the compliance officer.

Craig:  Zing

Geoff:  Which hangs a lantern: Part of the issue here is basketball's continuing status as the athletic department's bastard child.

Geoff:  It's an embarrassment that hasn't brought them anything worthwhile in the past decade.

Craig:  Except grief, lots of grief

Geoff:  Oh, we got grief. Plenty of that to go around.

Craig:  And to raise a point inelegantly

Craig:  In reading about Texas A&M's football history this year, I was struck by the quote from the University president whose name escapes me at the moment, around the time when the Aggie football program began in earnest. He wrote to one of his colleagues that he was not sure if they needed to have football, but if we must have football, I'd like to have the kind that wins

Craig:  I think that's how people feel about Michigan basketball

Geoff:  Exactly. We're a football school that likes its hockey and expects its basketball team to be worthy of the name it carries.

Geoff:  We don't understand why they aren't yearly contenders for the Big Ten title, or at least a tournament appearance. And I'm not talking about the NIT.

Craig:  Michigan is not a desert of basketball talent, after all

Craig:  I blame that damn explorer

Geoff:  Which one, exactly?

Craig:  The one that flipped on the way back from Detroit with Matteen Cleaves in it

Geoff:  Oh. That damn Explorer. I thought you meant Cadillac or Father Marquette.

Craig:  No, I should have been clearer

Geoff:  At any rate, basketball isn't about to eat Tommy Amaker's contract any time soon. It'll keep puttering around for a few more years at least. Then Tommy'll either start winning or the number left on his tab won't look so bad.

Craig:  That rolls about right

Geoff:  If they do start winning, I think they get a much better look from the athletic department and some work on the facilities accelerates.

Craig:  So, perhaps it comes down to "earn it?"

Geoff:  I think so.

Craig:  I think the key in all of this is that Michigan needs to listen to the alums (and the fans, which as we know, are not always one and the same)

Geoff:  If a replacement for Crisler comes along, do you think they go dual use, shuttle the hockey team into Crisler, keep them in Yost, or build a new hockey arena too?

Craig:  That's a complicated question. I think that Yost occupies some classic real estate along State Street and does give Michigan a link to the past. They also have spent a LOT in renovations in the past 15 years on Yost, so it's hard to see dumping the barn. The possibility of Michigan hockey playing in a modified Crisler feels weird to me, because it is not a hockey arena (I know it would be, but I just can't see it.) Honestly Geoff, I really can't speculate because I just can't see it

Geoff:  I think they'd build a dual-use arena if they went down that road. The marginal cost doesn't seem like it would be huge and you know that they'd salivate over they extra ticket revenue.

Geoff:  I'd hate, hate, hate to dump Yost. No new arena could possibly have a tenth of the character of that building.

Craig:  And those quick-convert Friday night hockey / Saturday afternoon hoops / Saturday night hockey games would be fun, fun, fun.

Geoff:  Yeah. Somehow they manage at the Kohl Center, but the Buckeyes have been known to squat at Nationwide.

Craig:  I honestly think that this is what will keep it from happening at Michigan.

Craig:  They'll look at Yost and say, “It's selling out, it's a draw, it has a good rep, and we're spending so much anyway.”

Geoff:  The other possibility is to keep some of the games at Yost and some at the new joint. Some people wouldn't get full-season [ticket] packages, but it could be done. Anyway, it's a complete pipe dream at this point.

Craig:  You know, that would be interesting, because keeping Yost would also allow Michigan to upgrade to varsity women's hockey

Craig:  And you could have your Ferris' et al at Yost and your Notre Dame, etc at NeoCrostler

Geoff:  (CROAST-ler?)

Geoff:  (Crisler + Yost?)

Craig:  Yes

Geoff:  Ha!

Craig:  And Yeastler sounded wrong

Geoff:  Yeah. Don't go with that one.

Craig:  But Crostler, yes, that's what I am calling faux dual purpose

Geoff:  Well, I think we might've raked this topic over the coals for as long as possible, at least for tonight.

Geoff:  Final thoughts?

Craig:  As long as we can come back to Eight Games a Week at some other point`

Geoff:  Oh, definitely.

Geoff:  We can do the Scheduling Spectacular after 30 Rock [On Thursday at 10:00. If anyone else wants to join in our chat, I’ll set up a room on AIM under “hooverstreet”].


Jeremy said...

Engelstad Arena cost more than $100 million. It's a hell of a beautiful place to play hockey, if a little quiet. I had the misfortune of watching UM's debacle up there with the hockey band last year. Of course I also got to watch Minnesota lose, which almost made it worth it. The guy parading around after the game with his "Holy Cross Equals Gopher Loss" sign was one of the happiest people I've ever seen.

Also, I love the stadium redesign. It's classy and classical (I even loved that ultra1940s M inset into the fences that they now got rid of), and it provides the "forceful exterior presence" that Bill Martin describes. It will be gorgeous from around campus. The design is totally Michigan through and through, and even keeps with our current "style" (see: public policy building, academic athletic center, Fish improvements, North Quad). If you're going to change the stadium -- and we are -- this is totally the way to do it.

If we're going to get nitpicky, I would've liked to see them incorporate some of the design elements of the original stadium brickwork that will now be covered up (pic). It will be interesting to see what they do to the blue siding that rings the rest of the stadium. Although they are probably saving that for future expansion.

Either of you playing in any upcoming alumni pep band gigs? I play bass trombone but I haven't been to any in a while.

Geoff said...

That Minnesota/Holy Cross game is one of the most insane upsets in recent memory. Just amazing. Too bad our game was the price you had to pay.

The new stadium will have that presence, but we have to get rid of one of the unique things we currently enjoy. I'll have to see how it turns out. I think the siding stays to give it a maize and blue accent. At least we know there isn't going to be a halo...

I'm just too far from Ann Arbor to make it back regularly, so I'm not penciled in for anything as of now. It's the rehearsal requirement that makes it too far. But I did get a new trumpet this year, so I'd like to make a couple of appearances.